Sunday World’s shocking photo…

THE front page of the Sunday World yesterday has to be one of its grimmest yet – the body of a man dangling by his neck from a bridge in Bangor. There have been efforts quite recently to try and change the reporting of suicide, and indeed the Press Complaints Commission’s Code of Practice recommends that “When reporting suicide, care should be taken to avoid excessive detail about the method used.”

It does have a little asterisk beside it, listing exceptions that can be made in the public interest. These include “Detecting or exposing crime or serious impropriety” and “Preventing the public from being misled by an action or statement of an individual or organisation”. Perhaps there is an argument in that while the police said there was nothing suspicious about the death, the hands of the deceased may have been bound behind his back.

Defending his decision, the editor, Jim McDowell, said the body had been in full public view for three hours. In the event of a complaint, the PCC would indeed have to “consider the extent to which material is already in the public domain”. He added that the picture used by the newspaper meant the dead man was not identifiable.

I don’t think PCC complaints will have any effect, no law was broken, I have no problem with news that makes readers uncomfortable, and the Sunday World can print what it likes. Still, I’ve yet to hear anyone argue that the use of the picture on the front page was necessary and in the public interest, rather than voyeuristic sensationalism. Then again, readers are less shockable these days, and we all rubberneck at car crashes.

  • the future’s bright, the future’s orange

    Nothing much shocks me with the sunday trash these daus, but that did. The guy was mentally ill and he probably had a family devestated already. The lowest form of journalism IMHO. Sad really.

  • austin

    I felt sick when I caught sight of this gruesome photo on the front of this ‘paper’.
    I am disgusted at the actions of its editor who on a ‘slow news’ day has decided to make opportunistic capital through sordid voyeurism relating to the death of a man with long-standing mental health issues.

    Never mind the hurt caused to the deceased’s family or indeed the thousands of families affected by the pain of suicide of a loved one. No doubt McDowell will slink out of his office to defend the indefensible, by claiming that he was trying to provoke a debate on the issue of suicide.However he knows the truth as do we.

  • Pigeon Toes

    What about the family’s right to privacy?

    Human Rights Act 1998 ·

    “Article 8
    Right to respect for private and family life
    1Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
    2There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

  • GavBelfast

    I never thought of McDowell as the media-shy type.

    So can’t think why he’s gone AWOL in discussion about tbis so far today ….


  • Rory Carr

    A debate on suicide? And who will they find to argue in favour? A disgraced Samurai warrior perhaps? Has there been a sudden influx of them into Northern Ireland along with other immigrants that such a deabte becomes pressing?

    I really must try to keep up more.

  • Gerry Mander

    Sinn Fein have predictably jumped on this bandwagon. This is a group that felt outflanked when the INLA displayed the aptly named Patsy (geddit) O’Hara in full rigor mortis with some INLA ghoulish vultures hovering over him. Sinn Fein feeling moral outrage is like a clap ridden whore lecturing us on sexual morality. Pass the puke bucket.

  • Derek

    Just what you expect from the gutter press -Sunday World. Anything to sell a few papers, and lets be clear, that’s why the printed the photo of this poor man.

    Until people grow up and stop buying this rubbish, they will continue with their p*ss poor journalism, porn adverts & sensationalist trash.

  • Rory Carr

    Upon reflection I can think of at least one suicide that publishing such a photograph on the front page of a newspaper might prevent – that of it’s editor driven to despair by plummeting sales figures and lost advertising revenue.

    All he now needs is a full-page ad from the ropeworks to accompany the picture.

  • Jim

    I agree with you all that it was odious and is gutter journalism. You cannot defend it.

    However i believe that paper has a role to play in that it names the main and up and coming players in the Paramilitary world. In addition it has managed to get under their skin on a number of occasions ex. Shoukri and the UDA. Last week it carried a story on two blood relations of Adams being kicked out of the country for corruption. Correct me if i’m wrong but i did not see anything on Slugger about it?

  • the hands were not tied behind the guy’s back. police had confirmed this long before the sunday world’ sat night deadline.

  • Only Asking.

    Looked like they were to me, especially the photo on the inside, which was more of a close up than the front page picture. They definitely were tied behind his back.

  • Derek

    ‘However i believe that paper has a role to play in that it names the main and up and coming players in the Paramilitary world. In addition it has managed to get under their skin on a number of occasions ex. Shoukri and the UDA. Last week it carried a story on two blood relations of Adams being kicked out of the country for corruption. Correct me if i’m wrong but i did not see anything on Slugger about it?’

    That’s very funny and utter cobblers, jim.

    90% of stories in the paper are based on – a man in the pub told me that…

    You are more likely to get stuff like this in the rag.

    South east Antrim UVF second in command, ‘Big balls’ irwin in punch up with UDA chief’s sister’s cousin, after booze fuelled evening in illegal paramilitary sex & drinking den in Cullybackey.


    The red hand commando’s Billy ‘ top gun’ Robinson from east Belfast is having a sordid gay affair with cross-dressing republican dissident from bandit country.

    Its the stuff of idiots and fools!

  • Rory Carr

    My younger daughter has just pointed out to me that I was being typically obtuse in my last post and that the photograph was published in order to generate debate around the issue of suicide prevention.

    Ah! Now I see. In much the same way, I suppose, that photographs of scantily clad young women are published in order to provoke a debate around the dangers of catching a winter chill when failing to cover up properly.

    I am in awe. This man’s dedication to social responsibility, it would seem, is boundless.

  • smalltownboy

    after booze fuelled evening in illegal paramilitary sex & drinking den in Cullybackey

    Cripes! Things have certainly changed since I left.

  • Neil

    It was a shocking picture. The headline of the article is relevant too though, why had the PSNI not either taken him down, or if not, at least attempted to cover things up?

    I wonder though if the owner of the Skoda on the pic was entirely happy that his license plate was deemed to be in the public interest also? Very helpful for anyone looking to clone a plate for a ringer, I’ve heard it said that people do that round these parts.

  • jone

    I think the cops have explained as that with any death of this sort best practice dictates you treat it as a potential crime scene.

    Therefore you don’t just cut the bloke down – you have to preserve the scene and wait for the SOCOs, photographers etc to do their jobs.

    Otherwise 12 months down the line (after the inquest)papers run headlines asking ‘Why wasn’t death properly investigated?’

  • alan56

    Sunday World should be ashamed of themselves, or rather the editor who allowed them to splash this picture. What is the public interest defence here?

  • alan56

    If all they publish about paramilitaries is so off the mark, why did the UDA in particular organise boycotts of the paper?

  • Neil

    That’s fair enough Jone, but a tarp would have sufficed. They hang plastic over crime scenes to maintain evidence so in this case it could have also spared local families, children in cars passing by and the deceased’s family the indignity of the photo, or horror of the scene. They should have covered it up, somehow.

  • jone

    ‘They should have covered it up, somehow.’

    Do we know what the precise logistics of getting it covered up were?

    With a body on the ground – easy, peasy.

    A body hanging from a bridge, not so much.

    As I recall the cops were able to get some big screens up with 2-3 hrs at the east Belfast undercar bomb.

  • Kathryn Johnston

    The PSNI can certainly move quicker. John Dallat just issued the following statement. Ironic.


    SDLP East Derry MLA John Dallat has said a large banner supporting convicted murderer Torrens Knight, erected over a bridge in Coleraine on Monday morning, was removed within minutes by the PSNI after a deluge of phone calls from passing motorists.

    The banner which read “Free Torrens Knight – Lock up John Dallat” – was flanked by two Union Jacks. It was erected on the Sandleford Bridge and seen by motorists travelling to work just before 8am.

    Torrens Knight was returned to prison last week after Secretary of State Shaun Woodward suspended his early release from prison for the murders of eight people at Greysteel in 1993 after he was convicted of attacking two women at a bar at New Market Street, Coleraine on 30 May. Mr Dallat has supported Knight’s latest victims, sisters Caroline Sutherland and Caroline Nicholl, and accompanied them to court last week when the gave evidence against Knight.

    Commenting on the latest developments, Mr Dallat said:

    “I received several phone calls about this incident as did the PSNI. When I phoned to thank them for removing the banner I was told that they had been inundated with calls, an indication of just how people feel about Knight and his disgraceful behaviour towards two defenceless sisters, leaving one with a broken nose and the other psychologically scarred for a very long time.

    “I am more convinced than ever that the Secretary of State was entirely justified in suspending Knight’s early release licence and I hope now that this will be ratified so that all of us, Catholic and Protestant can live in peace.

    “The police have told me that efforts are being made to have the culprits who erected the banner identified. Clearly, anyone with these kinds of perverted views on who should be in jail and who should be out is a matter of concern to the PSNI and indeed to all of us.”


  • John East Belfast

    I know the family personally.

    He was a young man who had history of mental problems and that his life has ended like this is tragic but was always something that was feared.

    He had secured his own hands behind his back.

    As far as the Sunday World is concerned this was gutter journalism at its worst.

    They cant even see the perverse irony in having a “headline” with “Grotesque” and then going onto blame the police for not acting swiftly enough because a few hundred motorists witnessed his body. They then ensured probably hundreds of thousands witnessed it in every newsagent and filling station in the country on Sunday morning.

    They even quoted a woman saying the young man should have been afforded “some dignity” but they chose not to give him any themselves.

    Even the “News of the World” declined to print the photographs because they said they were too shocking.

    There is no excuse for this – it wasnt new worthy and it was about nothing other than a cheap stunt to shock and sell newspapers.

    Having spoken to the boy’s aunt this morning she told me that she had a sleepless night last night because they cant get that photo out of her head – Her sister told her the same thing. The grandmother is returning from holiday today and she hasnt been told yet.

    Jim McDowell should hang his head in total shame.

    If there is any code these people should live by it is if it was Jim McDowell’s son would he have allowed that picture to be printed ?

    No crime was committed here, there was no public interest it was just vulgar and rotten – those who took thios decision are total and heartless bastards

  • Anna

    This reminds me of the photograph of the body of a young heroin victim 21 year old Rachel Whitear pictured dead on the floor after taking heroin. I found it shocking but it also brought home the reality of this type of death. Her parents then went on to permit the use of the image to deter other young people from getting into drugs.

    I don’t think Sunday World was wrong in using the photo of the suicide victim, I just think it was done in a very tactless way. Suicide is a reality, and that photograph is reality, so people must acknowledge that this is what happens in real life and something must be done to prevent it. Just because something is not nice does not mean we should hide it from the public domain.

    Even the publication of this photo has provoked a lot of debate in its aftermath, raising awareness about suicide.

  • Brian MacAodh

    What an absolute terrible decision to run this photo. Think of the poor family.

  • Tim

    Good post Johneb

    Perhaps McDowell & the cretins in the Sunday World could reflect on the words of this lads Aunt above.

    This man was no criminal, terrorist or public figure. He was a young man who had mental issues and the burden of life obviously became to much for him.

    The Sunday World has exploited his tragic death to sell newspapers and gain free publicity, that’s the bottom line.

    I find the whole issue utterly deplorable and is obviously causing the family further heartache.

  • Jo

    How much did the SW PAY for these photos?

  • Anna

    No public interest in suicide? Since when?

  • Rory Carr

    “Even the publication of this photo has provoked a lot of debate in its aftermath, raising awareness about suicide.” – Anna

    Don’t talk rot, Anna. There is no debate ongoing about suicide or raised awareness about suicide as a result of the disgraceful publication of this photograph .

    In case you hadn’t noticed, all the debate has been centered around the public’s outrage that the photograph was published, the sympathy for the deceased’s family in having to endure this obscenity at this time and the growing awareness that some newspaper editors will cross any boundaries of decency if they feel that will contribute to a growth in sales.

    “Raised awareness”, my arse! What do you imagine? We see a photograph of a man hanging dead from a rope and all suddenly go, “Oh! look . That man’s just put a rope around his neck and hung himself from a bridge and now he’s dead. I didn’t know it was harmful. Good job they showed us this photo. We wouldn’t have known otherwise.”

    Shall we have a poster campaign ( run in the Sunday World and paid from public funds of course):

    “BEWARE! Suicide can be fatal.” ?

    This is simply one of the more gross examples yet of seedy prurience masquerading as high-toned concern. It may be just about tolerable, if tacky, when it’s a photograph of a scantily dressed young woman with the caption,

    “Oops! Emily forgot to put her top on. Naughty girl!”,

    but this is simply outrageous and entirely without merit and the feigned reasons justifying its publication make it all the more contemptible.

  • borderline

    totally agree with JEB

  • Edel

    “the hands were not tied behind the guy’s back. police had confirmed this long before the sunday world’ sat night deadline”

    “He had secured his own hands behind his back.”

    The hands were definately tied. It was obvious from the photos. He seemd to have blood on his top and trousers. The rope was under the fence at on the bridge. He was hanging from the shallowest part of the bridge.

    How exactly did he manage to hang himself in this way?

  • Denise

    Firstly I would like to know who in their right mind would be sick enough to take a picture of a person hanging from a road bridge, secondly they obviously made money from this so in the first instance this is completely immoral.

    Im wondering did they provide signposting information to suicide helplines?

    I have had two cousins who committed suicide in the same manner, i cant imagine how i would have felt if that was either of them in that picture.

    I feel for the poor family.


  • Anna

    Rory, I don’t know what kind of people you converse with, but I have had many conversations today about suicide, its effects on loved ones and the issues raised by this photograph being published. This may come as a surprise to you, but conversations and debates are taking place outside of your immediate vicinity…which you are not privy to, so unless you can vouch for every single debate that has taken place perhaps you should rethink that dismissive (if not totally naive) comment.

    Any discussion about a topic – for whatever reason – raises awareness about that topic…and the topic in this case is suicide.

    And your apparent use of sarcasm and an irrelevant reference to ‘scantily dressed young women’ to illustrate a point about suicide is churlish to say the least.

  • Frank

    ‘Graphic photographs of the scene were provided to media organisations by a freelance photographer on Saturday’

    And only one newspaper decided they could milk the traigic death of this young man for personal gain, newspaper sales & profit.

    No doubt the editorial staff of the Sunday World are very pleased with their increased exposure since yesterday morning.

    Expect a solemn apology and tribute to the young man or a ‘why we printed the picture’ headline from the eejit that edits it in next weeks edition…just to keep the paper sales up.


    Totally underminds those who are genuine in their desire to raise awareness in a non-selfish way.

  • Jim


    Both the UDA story and the story about Adams cousins are true. People pussyfoot around these guys Had you ever heard of John Joe connolly before the Sunday World broke a story about him? Remember they lost one of their reporters during the troubles and cannot think of any news organisations that this happened to. Derek in ain’t the New York Times and doesn’t claim to be but at least there are courageous when dealing with both Para and criminal elements in our society.

  • Brian MacAodh

    They might as well show all the pictures of all suicides when they find the body. That will really raise awareness.

  • The Man with no Name

    I am a press photographer from Belfast, I work for all these large papers and was at the scene myself on Saturday. I refused to even lift my camera to shoot it, as it was just wrong!!!

    I know for a fact that whoever had sold those pics would have been paid £125 for them.

    The things people do for money!

  • paddy

    ronnie flannigan ruc threatened to do this.commit public suicide course he hadnt the balls for it no slander about him putting it in peoples heads if the photo stops 1 person from doing it then it will be worth it

  • Rory Carr

    Tell me please, Anna, how viewing this photograph helped progress any discussion you and your circle may have had on improving suicide prevention more than a simple report of the tragedy itself.

    I cannot believe that you and your friends are so desensitised that you require all the gory details to be graphically displayed before you are moved to any show of concern and I still do not understand how you can justify the publication of this photograph when it clearly was a decision taken in the teeth of the grieving relatives and friends of the deceased whose own sensitivies were trampled upon by this callous bid for increased sales.

    A simple paragraph or two reporting the death would have sufficed, perhaps an editorial on the problems of prevention or mental health care and dare I say that the details of the Samaritans and their phone number could much more usefully have been displayed in the space taken up by this wretched photograph saving this wretched paper the Judas money it paid out for it.